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tv   CNN Newsroom  CNN  January 22, 2012 1:00am-2:00am EST

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welcome to our special election edition of "ac 360." south carolina voters put their stamp on the race for the white house. >> newt gingrich seizes the lead as the campaign heads for florida.
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>> newt gingrich is south carolina's choice. it's a major blow to mitt romney's campaign. >> this is a hard fight because there's so much worth fighting for. >> four republicans went into this southern brawl. who will be left standing as the contest moves to florida? the votes are in. south carolina has spoken. and the biggest battleground yet is still ahead.
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rick santorum at 17%. ron paul at 13%. all the candidates say they are moving forward to florida. we have reporters stationed throughout south carolina as we have for the last several weeks. let's start off with gingrich headquarters. there are still a lot of folks there, romney headquarters looks like a ghostown. does the candidate move to florida tomorrow? >> reporter: you know, we're still waiting to hear about his travel plans. it's been on interesting day watching the gingrich campaign. this is a candidate who tends to shoot from the hip. i did catch up with somebody a few moments ago and they were watching the returns come in on the gingrich bus. i asked were they elated, were they exciting, doing touchdown dances? the answer is no, they were very
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humbled by the results down here in south carolina. and anderson, i think what happened here is that conservatives in this state, republicans in the state said they couldn't care less about newt gingrich's personal life. what they did care about was a candidate taking it to the establishment, taking it to the republican establishment, not only around the country but here in south carolina. it was the governor of this state who was on the mitt romney team, not on the newt gingrich team. he was going after the media, which we talked about again and again, and conservatives like that, as well. but it was interesting to listen to newt gingrich's victory speech here tonight, because it wasn't so much about his rival. we heard him go on and on about mitt romney on the campaign trail. this one was about president obama and what he considers to be a food stamp president, something that he's said time and again. here's just a little bit of what he had to say with respect to that line of attack. >> president obama has been
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historically the most effective food stamp president in american history. [ applause ] i worked with ronald reagan to create jobs and 16 million jobs were created. by the american people in the '80s. i worked with bill clinton and 11 million jobs were created by the american people during the four years that i was speaker. i would like to be the best paycheck president in american history. and i want to go into every neighborhood of every ethnic background in every part of the country and say to people simply, if you want your children to have a life of dependency and food stamps, you have a candidate that's barack obama. if you want your children to have a life of paychecks, you have a candidate that's newt gingrich. and i bet you that we have votes everywhere. [ applause ]
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>> there you have it, newt gingrich focusing in on the president, something that his rival mitt romney likes to do out on the stump. so we heard some of that from newt gingrich. you asked about what he's doing tomorrow. he's going to be on three morning talk shows, including "state of the union" with candy crowley. a lot of people are talking about mitt romney -- florida being mitt romney country. newt gingrich could do very well down in florida. he's already cultivating ties with the cuban-american community and mitt romney will have a tough time explaining his opposition to the dream act, which is a bill that would lead to a path to citizenship for young latinos in this country. newt gingrich said he's in favor of portions of that bill. mitt romney said he would veto that act and newt gingrich would be very popular in the central part of the state. that's sarah palin country and sarah palin, she sort of endorsed newt gingrich here in south carolina. so buckle your seat belts. >> candy crowley is at romney headquarters. it was interesting to hear governor romney's speech tonight, talking a lot about
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obama, but he did throw a few references towards newt gingrich, though not using the candidate by name. we anticipate that is going to change in the next couple of days. he's squarely got to go after newt gingrich, right? >> reporter: and it's clearly one thing he told me and talking to some strategists tonight. they said listen, he's still going to go after president obama, but newt gingrich is now also a target. so they have sort of a two-pronged approach here, as they move into florida and that was pretty evident when mitt romney came out here to thank the people of south carolina. take a listen. >> in recent weeks, the choice within our party has also come into stark focus. president obama has no experience running a business and no experience running a state. our party can't be led to victory by someone who also has never run a business or never run a state. [ applause ]
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>> reporter: so obviously probably with a name attached, you're going to see mitt romney going after newt gingrich. it's what you do to try to slow that momentum. they went for a quick change of scenery, even before mitt romney came out here tonight to say thank you. his supporters here were shouting "florida, florida," and they do have high hopes and florida, they keep talking about this is going to be a big week. mitt romney will come out in advance of the president's state of the union speech tuesday night. tuesday morning, mitt romney will give a major speech on the economy and differentiating himself not just from the president but newt gingrich, as well. he will give a similar speech the next day after the president's state of the union address. they point out that mitt romney has lots of resources. that means money. that he has a lot of staff on the ground, and he has the wherewithal to go the long haul.
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you will see him playing the hardball that he started to play here tonight. you will hear them talk a lot about how they're going to be in state after state after state collecting delegates, because after all, we tend to forget as we think maybe it's going to be wrapped up in south carolina or wrapped up in florida. this is, after all, a state by state battle for delegates. >> and it seems tonight that it is going to be a very, very long haul indeed. candy crowley, appreciate it. wolf and john king, looking at exit polling numbers as you have been all night long. >> the numbers are fascinating. we get a real picture of what was going on in south carolina, but that doesn't mean the same thing is going to happen in florida. >> doesn't necessarily, though we've seen the impacted momentum. south carolina is a more conservative state than florida, but when kru lock at the scope of the gingrich victory, let's think about some lessons going forward. among those born again or evangelical christians, this is
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2/3 of the vote, evangelical voters, gingrich easily thumping romney here. it's a big piece of the electorate. a smaller slice in florida. look at this in idealology. gingrich carries very conservative voters. some with liberal voters. romney did carry the moderates. there are more moderates in florida than south carolina. somewhat conservative gingrich. this is an area where romney would have to improve. if you can win moderates and somewhat conservative voters in florida, you have a better chance given the demographics of that state. and over here, independents could vote in south carolina. gingrich carried them and carried self-identified republicans. in florida, it's only republicans. so governor romney is going to have to do better to rebound here. this is fascinating. by income, voters under $30,000, gingrich. $30,000 to $50,000, gingrich, $50,000 to 100,000, gingrich. 100,000 to 200,000, gingrich. only $200,000 or more voted for
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romney. some evidence here, number one, they did not buy his pitch that he's the best candidate on the economy. number two, the bane capital attacks and the taxes on governor romney. he was uncomfortable in the debates about releasing taxes. by education, never attended college, gingrich, some college, gingrich, only among post graduate studies went for romney. the upper slice, if you will, in the education. across the age demographics, ron paul, his supporters are young. he won the 18-29 group with 31%. gingrich, 28%. romney way down there after rick santorum. but among the larger groups, gingrich, gingrich and gingrich. you just go across, he keeps winning. here's one more.
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men and woman, it was evenly split. some thought there would be a gender gap. there was no gender gap. gingrich 38%, romney, 29%. he won among women. he won even more convincingly among men. and the question, you can see here this is newt gingrich. that is a picture of a thumping. look at 2008 when john mccain barley carried the state. he won 33% to 30% over mike huckabee. you see a split, the conservatives up here, the more moderate to conservative voters in this part of the state. tonight, newt gingrich winning convincingly. the question is, can he take the demographic support among tea party voters, and evangelicals and bring it into a much more different state here. this is mccain the lighter red, romney is the darker red. mike huckabee the yellow. that's four years ago. romney got 31% last time but mccain won the state. that was it. much more diverse place. again, a lot of lessons. you can discount because of the size of the gingrich victory or
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say governor romney has a problem as he moves on. >> we have ten days between now and january 31 when the florida primary takes place. you think how quickly things can change, only a week or so, not even a week or so ago, that cnn "time" magazine poll we did in florida showed mitt romney crushing newt gingrich in florida. but i don't know if that's accurate now. >> at the moment, we have a momentum race and it's a gingrich momentum. in the tom foreman interview with the undecided voters was quite telling. again, in the national polls for months, who is the strongest candidate against president obama? mitt romney. south carolina republicans tonight said it was newt gingrich. winning helps you in politics. the question is, ten days is important. not three days, seven days, ten days gives mitt romney a chance with the advertising. we can show you this real quick. let me come forward to 2012. tv ads up in the states right
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now, if you add in the superpacs that are spending, all the spending in florida as of today was pro romney. count a few hours. >> newt gingrich is going to get his superpac. they're going to be all over the place. there are some rich people who support newt gingrich out there and can give unlimited amounts of money to the newt gingrich superpacs or to the mitt romney superpacs, the rick santorum superpacs. they've all got their superpacs. let's go over to erin burnett. because sh's taking a look at this ad spending, as well. south carolina is in the millions, no doubt about that, but it's going to be a lot more over the next ten days in florida. tell us about south carolina first. >> south carolina, all in. you saw the numbers. mitt romney by far spending the most. this is mitt romney on television ads. $2.7 million. to buy 30 seconds of advertising in south carolina is $300.
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it's a very different story when you look at the state of florida. now, here are our four candidates, going on to florida. mitt romney's campaign has already spent $2.4 million on television ads in florida. when you d in the superpac, $4.9. that is more than he spent in the entire state in south carolina that he spenl in florida. that's going to buy him a lot of ads. some of his ads are already playing in florida. he's got an ad airing in spanish to win over some hispanic voters. the real question is, you go to newt.org tonight, what does it say? we want a million dollar money bomb, trying to get more money to buy advertising in florida. but right now, mitt romney is the only one with the television presence in that state and it's an expensive state. >> a lot of major media markets in florida. it's not cheap to buy those 30-second commercials. i want to go over to peter right now, one of our political reporters, doing an outstanding
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job for us. take us inside, peter, the romney camp right now. they must be so upset, so frustrated. a few days ago they were poised to win in south carolina and didn't happen. >> reporter: that's right. i can tell you romney supporters here, his financial supporters, campaign surrogates, they were winning a week ago and they lost it. there's a sense of yes, newt gingrich won south carolina, but also that mitt romney fumbled the ball. there's some griping behind the scenes, that the romney campaign did not handle the tax question well. while newt gingrich was soaring in the polls, the romney campaign cannot punch through that coverage with an aggressive message against speaker gingrich, because they were spending five straight days giving a different answer about mitt romney's tax returns. while they realized the gingrich surge, they thought they might have had a fighting chance. i talked to one donor who said it's time to take the training wheels off the candidate.
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let him be himself. there were questions about mitt romney's charisma and his ability to connect with voters. but he's showed better political instincts than he did in 2008. so you're hearing again from south carolina some of the folks who went out on a limb for him in a state that was a risk yil bet, sort of come paining that they didn't serve the -- the campaign staff did not serve the candidate as well as they could have. >> peter doing some good reporting for us. anderson, let's go back to you. ten days, a lifetime between now and january 31, the florida primary. >> a lifetime, especially in this election as we've seen it over the last couple of weeks. rick santorum praising newt gingrich on his victory tonight in south carolina. but ron paul a little more hesitant. we'll check in with both candidates after a break. [ todd ] hello? hello todd. just calling to let you know
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by a commanding lead. we heard from rick santorum a short time ago. dana bash spoke to the candidate earlier before. dana, what is rick santorum's strategy at this point? is he hoping that newt gingrich does fatal damage to mitt romney and then newt gingrich does fatal damage to himself? >> reporter: i think maybe the last thing you said first. he's expecting newt gingrich to do potentially fatal damage to himself. look, they are disappointed inside the rick santorum campaign that he didn't do better here. but they're effectively saying this could have been worse, because mitt romney could have won. they understand that rick santorum is seen as the buffer between newt gingrich and mitt romney and specifically newt gingrich getting the nomination. i did have a chance to go into rick santorum's war room exclusively earlier tonight and asked him about the results tonight. >> he kicked butt and i give him a lot of credit.
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i'm proud of him for what he accomplished. the great narrative is three days ago, there was an inevitability in this race. mitt romney was 2-0, soon to be 3-0. and i took iowa, newt took south carolina, and it's game on again. i can't be more excited for the opportunity now to see this campaign go on. we're going to have it go on for a long time. >> you said newt gingrich kicked butt. why didn't you kick butt? >> we didn't get the bump we hoped for out of iowa. we did well, but we didn't win. yesterday they determined we won, not quite in time for us to get the bounce we wanted. >> now, santorum aides say he's going to make his attacks on newt gingrich even sharper. they were pretty sharp in cnn's debate a couple of nights ago.
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they will be sharper in the coming days. he is going on to florida. he's already got a couple of events scheduled tomorrow, including at a church with about 3,000 people. that is certainly an indication he's going to continue to try to appeal to the christian conservative, social conservative base. even though that was really the hope that he was going to do well in this state, because such a big part of the electorate and he didn't do very well with those voters here, but he insists he's going to go to florida and then colorado, nevada, minnesota. we'll see if he can keep the money flowing in to stay in the race. >> dana, thank you very much. joe johns is standing by at congressman ron paul headquarters. they just keep chugging right along. >> reporter: yeah, anderson. the band played on, very loud band right here. ron paul is long gone.
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fourth in a four-person race is not good by election standards. but by ron paul standards, he says he finished with more votes than he did four years ago when he ran for president. so in his view, that's pretty good. how can he say that? he views this as much as a movement, not just an election, if you will. ron paul, i talked to him earlier, just before cnn went on tv with the projection saying newt gingrich had won. i wanted to gauge, if you will, his opinion of newt gingrich. so let's listen to this sound bite and i'll talk to you on the other side. some people are saying if newt gingrich wins tonight, the people at the white house would be very happy and satisfied. what is your view on that, do you think a win for newt gingrich is bad for the republican party? >> i don't know whether i'm going to let you put those words into my mouth.
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i think he's going to have a difficult time, but i think any republican time would have a difficult time. that's why i was offering my services. there was a poll out that said that paul against obama does pretty darn well, essentially in a tie. did as well as romney has done. so i would say that the other republicans cannot appeal to civil libertarians and to those democratic base who are sick and tired of obama with his foreign policy. of course, the republicans ought to have a strong appeal to me, because i'm a fiscal conservative offering to cut the budget by a trillion dollars. [ applause ] >> reporter: so clearly he's still campaigning there. ron paul obviously showing no signs of wanting to get out of
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the race, telling me he's going to look at states that award their delegate to the gop national convention by percentage. also going to states that have caucuses where he can use an organization to get more delegates, because he says that is the name of the game. ron paul showing no signs of getting out. the other thing i'm hearing from him is that he plans to buy television ads in states where there are caucuses and not so much in states where there are primaries such as florida. so not buying ads in primaries, still going there for debates, mainly focusing on caucus states and states where he can pick up a percentage of delegates. anderson? >> joe, thank you very much. ron paul still has a lot of organization and enthusiasm on the ground. undecided voters in florida, watching, listening closely tonight to what was happening in south carolina. did they make up their minds? did what they heard tonight change their opinion? you'll hear from them, next. [ m] what if that hemorrhoid pain
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will be giving away passafree copies of the alcoholism & addiction cure. to get yours, go to ssagesmalibubook.com. what a night it's been. welcome back to this special "ac 360" primary edition. let's take a look at how voters in florida are leaning ten days before their own primary, in particular how tonight might have made a difference in their opinions. we got a group of undecided voters that tom forman has been hanging out with, watching very closely all the candidates. we've been running their real-time reactions, dial testing under the screen as the candidates have spoken.
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let's talk about their reaction first to ron paul. tom? >> reporter: you know, we're here at the university of north florida, which has been very kind to keep us all here tonight for what has been a fascinating evening. you told us you all came in undecided. look at all the people who now think they're somewhat decided and i will tell you, anderson, it's a little squishy. some of them say maybe not so much. but ron paul seemed to hit a certain note, by and large, when you look at the dial testing, when he went by, people were even here. but there was one area where he seemed to do pretty well. watch the lines and listen. >> well, the evidence has become clear that the efforts by government is failing and we can't depend on the government to take care of us from cradle to grave. we can't depend on the government to promote and believe that we can police the
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world and go into nation building, because we're going broke. [ applause ] >> reporter: that whole theme there of saying over and over again, we can't depend on the government, it's making us broke. it has to be about something beyond that. that has a real resonance with this crowd here. let me talk to this gentleman, because i think you had some thoughts on that matter. what do you think when you hear someone high ron paul say, this can't be about the government solving everything. >> i think the current government now is on a course of incentive killing. we need to create to where it's pretty much to reward people that work hard for a living and get rid of the red tape and for the entrepreneurs out there, they really need to go to work and stop the incentive killing. >> are there any ron paul supporters here?
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maybe? what do you like about ron paul? >> he's attacking the institution, he's attacking what's wrong with the nation that's been wrong with the nation for years past. just not obama, what obama has been doing in the last eight years, but he goes back further than that and says these are things that have been wrong and he's been fighting for 30 years. >> but let me ask you one question about this as a group here, because i have a suspicion about this -- how many of you here think ron paul, in all fairness, could ever become the president of the united states? a couple, maybe. that, anderson, seems to be one of the key problems that has been plaguing certainly mr. paul -- dr. paul from the beginning, because time and again, people talked about electability. the notion that they want to win the white house and if it means picking somebody who can win,
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even if idealogically it doesn't fit exactly, they will do that to make sure they win the white house. that's one of the real goals here. >> what about reaction to santorum? >> reporter: it's interesting. the reaction to rick santorum was similar to the reaction that we had to ron paul, in that there's a lot of flat lining going on, even when he said things that should have gotten a better ride. this is one of his best responses. look at what happens here. >> this race and this campaign is not going to be about tearing everybody down. it's not going to be about negative ads. it's not going to be about anything other than painting a bold vision or our country. one that believes in the working class values that my grandfather taught to me. [ applause ] >> reporter: you were speaking a little while ago about the
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desire to hear more talk, like rick santorum has brought to the race here. you believe he's the guy that you would like to support here, but you're talking about social issues, values issues. >> yes, i am. i think values play a big part in an election. i mean, i go to church every sunday and every wednesday and a lot of my friends who would like to see more morals come back to the united states. >> do you think somebody running on a platform of moral issues in this economy can win? or do you think most people will say it's an economic vote this time? >> i think a lot of people will say he could win here in the south. i don't know about the north. but i know here in the south, we have very deep religious values. and i think he could win. i really liked him. i think he's young, too. >> who thinks he can't win? >> i don't think he can win.
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i agree he's got great core values. he's probably got some good ideas but he doesn't have the popularity, whether he has the money or the support behind him. >> so anderson, that's what we've been hearing a lot of, this question of whether or not somebody can win. as we go to our dial testing here with southern methodist university did all the technology tonight and did a great job with it. you can see it time and again, there are messages that resonate with the voters. but when you ask will that message and will that candidate win, what they're looking for is the combination of a message that wins in their hearts and a candidate who can win at the polls. that's clearly what people are looking for here and they're trying to sort it out. newt gingrich made some ground tonight in convincing people maybe he's that guy. although a lot of people are still looking at romney very closely. >> that is where our debate will be thursday night in florida,
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going to be a fascinating debate. starting at 8:00 eastern time. let's take a look over at some of the numbers in florida in terms of what the candidates -- obviously this is the state they're heading to tonight, if not tomorrow. economically, what are we looking at? >> in a sense, the unemployment rate in florida, it ties for the fourth worst unemployment rate in the united states. and anderson, part of the reason for that is not going to surprise you, obviously housing. when you have a housing problem, you have an employment problem. in florida, this is the story economically. your average home in america is down 24%. in florida, the best location is down 46%. you have prices in central florida down 60%. tampa bay, 55%. miami, house prices down 51%. so this is a big part of the story here. this is a state that's hurting.
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it's still pretty bad there. >> you're been polling ceos today about who they liked better on the economy, president obama or republicans. what did you find? >> we have a strike team. we have 22 members, entrepreneurs, big ceos, like the ceo of ford, tech ceos, from different walks of life to get a sense of what they want. this is interesting. they all pick their number one republican candidate for the economy as mitt romney. over barack obama, 14 of them would say mitt romney would be better for the economy versus four for barack obama. they think that mitt romney's push for lower taxes on corporations is attainable. they also think he's calm and consistent. but this is fascinating given what we saw tonight. look at this, anderson. when we polled them, 13 of them, almost the same number, said they would prefer mitt romney on the economy over barack obama also preferred newt gingrich to barack obama. newt gingrich's tax plan for individuals has a lot of appeal for a lot of voters out there.
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15% flat optional tax is popular with the republican party. also popular with business people, as well. so when it comes to electability, yes, you look at business people. they say mitt romney would be our choice in the republican field, but would they take newt gingrich? the answer seems to be yes. >> erin, thank you very much. newt gingrich and mitt romney taking aim at each other coming out of south carolina. how will mitt romney try to regain momentum? can he? we'll look at that, up next. we'll be right back. ♪ what's he looking for? i think he's looking for savings. ♪ i can't watch this anymore. stop! there's an easier way! we compare your progressive direct rate to other top companies so you get a great price. no more running around. ha ha ha! wouldn't you love to see the world through his eyes? i bet i look like the strongest man in the world. the best place to find a great deal. now, that's progressive. call or click today.
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welcome back to "ac 360." getting close to cnn after dark hours, although we're continuing with the "ac 360" font at least. i'm here with gloria, david gergen and john avolon joining us from romney headquarters. let's talk about where the race goes now in terms of mitt romney. >> i think mitt romney learned as one of his folks said, you know, he's got to start playing offense, not defense. and i think what you're going to see, particularly given those numbers that erin just showed about housing in florida, they're going to play up newt gingrich as a lobbyist for freddie mac and they're going to say, you know what? he's really somebody who has worked in washington, lived in washington, governed in
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washington. he's not an outsider. and by the way, he was kind of part of the elite when he was speaker of the house. instead of just hearing this from surrogates, and also about newt gingrich's lack of discipline, they call him unreliable, you're going to hear it from mitt romney himself. >> which we haven't before. >> i was saying earlier, it's kind of asymmetrical warfare. newt gingrich is such a great attack politician one on one and mitt romney not so much. >> it was interesting to hear the speeches of mitt romney and newt gingrich tonight, because they both tried to focus on president obama, though mitt romney did begin to attack newt gingrich, though not by name. it's going to get much more personal it would seem in the coming days. >> that's right, anderson. traditionally florida has been the tiebreaking primary in this january gauntlet and it's set up to be that again, with three different candidates winning the three different states today.
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what's interesting about florida, tea party and hispanic voters are much more likely to be decisive than evangelical voters. in 2010, you had that vicious primary between charlie crist and marko rubio. rubio won that. what's significant about that is that rubio's campaign manager is running the state of florida for newt gingrich this time around. in addition, newt gingrich just got an endorsement from a major republican hispanic group. that could be a significant factor, as well. so with this tiebreaking role florida can play, some of them could be playing in newt gingrich's favor, even though mitt romney has the money and poll advantage going into tonight. >> david, as you look back on tonight, what do you reflect on? >> one is a conversation with newt gingrich way back weeks before iowa.
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he said i'm going to have an onslaught of negative things that come at me. if i can survive it, i can turn this into a two-man race and i can win a two-man race and low and behold, that's what he's done. he's emerged now. one thing romney didn't want to do is have conservatives start to coalesce around one candidate. they now have a situation where they're running essentially one candidate. it's turned the race upside down. the other thing that is striking about this is that in the age of the internet, this new technology, how much this race is turning to old technology, television. we've always thought organization and money spell the difference in these races. gingrich is doing something very different. >> by television, you mean televised debates? >> the debates are driving these -- it drove south carolina. >> have you seen any other election where debates drove it so much? >> no. >> i think they were important with hillary clinton and barack obama. but what was so interesting to me about the exit polls tonight,
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we had over half the people saying that they decided at the last minute. and i think that's because they were watching these debates and they will watch these debates in florida and it will help them make up their mind. >> in fact, these two debates coming up in florida may be more critical than south carolina because mitt romney now has a stake in showing that he is not a waffler. >> can you remember the last time television drove a national election? 1960, kennedy-nixon. kennedy won that. up next, john king is back with mitt romney's biggest worry going into florida. that's ahead. great guest experience. that makes my day. and during the four course feast, there's so much to choose from. [ male announcer ] the four course seafood feast is back at red lobster. still just $15. get soup, salad, unlimited cheddar bay biscuits, dessert, and your choice of 7 entrées, like new honey bbq shrimp skewers
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welcome back. we've got john king here. we were studying all these numbers and we're learning a lot about what happened in south carolina and what it means down the road. >> that's right. we're trying to look at the exit polls and project forward, what does newt gingrich have to gain and what does mitt romney have to worry about? here's a few things. when gingrich is winning so big, he's winning across. huge support with the tea party. a lot of tea party in florida. romney needs to fix this number. evangelical christians, 64% in south carolina, that would be a much smaller number in florida. but up in the panhandle, those voters matter.
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4 h 44% for gingrich, 22% for romney. romney would like to improve that number in florida. but here are the biggest game changers tonight, reinforced by south carolina votes. you can say this is a more conservative electorate. gingrich won big, discount the numbers. if you listen to the undecided voters with tom foreman, who has the right experience? 49% of south carolina voters said newt gingrich has the right experience. mitt romney is saying you want a governor, somebody with business experience. well, newt gingrich has convinced at least south carolina republicans he has the right experience to be president by a commanding margin over mitt romney. this is a challenge going into florida. and this has been mitt romney's greatest strength the entire race, who is the best candidate to go up against president obama in the fall? a combination of the debates and campaigning -- i'm sorry, i put the wrong one up there. 51%, a majority of south carolina republicans said newt gingrich is the best candidate
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to beat obama. if you listen to those undecided voters, you watch them react to the speech, this is a big gap, a 14-point gap. if you see rick santorum and ron paul, these are the only two candidates that a large number of republicans think, but this is the jumd pinning of the romney campaign. you might not like me, but i can beat barack obama. it's the psychology of the race that newt gingrich can beat barack obama and newt gingrich has the right experience, if that carries over into florida, mitt romney is in trouble. >> mitt romney did so much better in awhat and new hampshire and newt gingrich did well in south carolina. that's going to be key presumably in florida in ten days. >> he has to change that and change it fast. up ahead, what could be republican turnout, what does that mean for president obama? we'll assess when we come back.
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want to avoid foreclosure. smart move. candy? um-- well, you know, you're in luck. we're experts in this sort of thing, mortgage rigamarole, whatnot. r-really? absolutely, and we guarantee results, you know, for a small fee, of course. such are the benefits of having a professional on your side. [whistles, chuckles] why don't we get a contract? who wants a contract? [honks horn] [circus music plays] here you go, pete. thanks, betty. we're out of toner. [circus music plays] sign it. come on. sign it. [honks horn] ...homes around the country. every single day, saving homes. we will talk it over... announcer: if you're facing foreclosure, make sure you're talking to the right people. speak with hud-approved housing counselors free of charge at...
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our cnn contributors are basically the last folks standing here. alex, what are you thinking about right now? >> i've learned two things today. one is open marriage is not just for democrats anymore. and two, weakness will not be forgiven by republicans this year. tim pawlenty displayed weakness in a debate with mitt romney and
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republicans dispatched him. mitt romney displayed weakness in a debate against newt gingrich, he stumbled and fell in south carolina. the stronger guy will win florida. >> surge and interest in the south carolina primary. that tells me going forward that if this is a map-to-man battle, you could have this happen in a lot more states. the other issue for newt gingrich is can he cut the gap with barack obama? mitt romney and barack obama have been running dead even in polls, newt is down by 11 points. he's got to close that gap. >> mitt romney thought he was going 3 for 3. now he lost two states in one week. he has to sell himself to conservative republicans, he has to figure out a way to take down somebody who might be gaining traction with the republican base, that being newt gingrich.
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>> the republicans advocate less government and family values and the front-runner is now somebody that has been married three times and was a lobbyist for freddie mac. anything can happen in this world. gingrich to release his contract with freddie mac and freddie mac said that's going to be fine. >> donna, you've run campaigns. what is the romney campaign going through tonight at this hour? >> there's no question, they're looking at the delegates and they know whether this race ends in florida, or super tuesday, they have the money and organization. they can beat newt gingrich. >> eric, what are you looking at moving forward? where does this race go?
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>> i want to see ron paul. i'm surprised he came in fourth place here. he had a strong showing. by the way, public service message to the troopers of columbia, -- [ inaudible ] >> they're looking for you, ari. >> you can tell you're in a bar. >> how nasty on the republican side is this race going to get? >> this is winner take all in florida. nobody is going to leave any arrows in the quiver here. >> this is a newt, you release your dirt, romney, you release your dirt. republicans are off track. >> debt, spending and taxes, that's where this race has to get back to for the republicans. >> i want to thank all our reporters, our analysts. tune in to cnn's next republican debate from jacksonville, florida thursday night at 8:00 p.m. eastern.

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